Dixon-area shoot­ings spark calls for sup­port

Two killings just a week apart have Eto­bi­coke com­mu­nity ask­ing for preven­tion pro­grams

Toronto Star - - DEATHS, MEMORIALS | GREATER TORONTO - MIRIAM KATAWAZI STAFF RE­PORTER

A16-year-old shot and killed in Toronto’s Dixon Road neigh­bour­hood is be­ing re­mem­bered as an en­thu­si­as­tic and ea­ger young boy.

Farhia Warsame, the di­rec­tor of the So­mali Women and Chil­dren Sup­port Net­work, said Zakariye Ali fre­quently at­tended her cen­tre’s youth lead­er­ship pro­gram when he was 13 and 14 years old. She said he was one of many chil­dren al­ways ex­cited to be there who of­ten­times did not want to leave the cen­tre.

His death was one of two sep­a­rate mur­ders that shook the com­mu­nity over the span of a week. Last Thurs­day, Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was fa­tally shot and found in a ve­hi­cle in front of an apart­ment build­ing on Dixon Rd.

Four days af­ter his death, Ali died of his in­juries in hospi­tal fol­low­ing a triple shoot­ing in the park­ing lot of Kingsview Vil­lage School at Dixon Rd. and Is­ling­ton Ave.

Warsame lost her own son to gun vi­o­lence in 2015, in a dou­ble mur­der in down­town Toronto. She was shocked, she said, and un­able to speak out when it hap­pened.

“Too many of us are bury­ing our chil­dren be­cause of the vi­o­lence,” Warsame said. “Our com­mu­nity is un­der­served, no one is in­vest­ing in our youth and sup­port­ing them.”

She says the area lacks pro­grams to en­gage and in­spire youth. Even the lead­er­ship pro­gram Ali at­tended is no longer avail­able, she said, be­cause its two-year fund­ing ended in 2015.

“When some­thing hap­pens, the me­dia will show up, the po­lice come, but then ev­ery­body leaves and we are left on our own,” she said. “There is no preven­tion; no one works to pre­vent th­ese things from hap­pen­ing.”

In a rally on Thurs­day morn­ing, Warsame called on pro­vin­cial politi­cians to visit the neigh­bour­hood to as­sess the lack of sup­port and to see how vi­o­lence is im­pact­ing the com­mu­nity.

“We need sus­tain­able pro­grams to keep them busy and give them op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow and have choices, and to build their skills and re­la­tion­ships with each other,” Warsame said.

Area coun­cil­lor Michael Ford at­tended the demon­stra­tion and said he plans to hold a meet­ing with city of­fi­cials, the com­mu­nity and the school board to ad­dress the is­sues the neigh­bour­hood is grap­pling with.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant that the city is in­vest­ing in sup­port pro­grams for the com­mu­nity,” Ford said. “We need to come to­gether and learn what the path is to move for­ward and make the dif­fer­ence that we need.”

Warsame said the So­mali com­mu­nity in the area is also gath­er­ing on Satur­day to dis­cuss what it can do to re­spond and pre­vent fu­ture vi­o­lence.

Ali’s funeral will be held on Fri­day at noon in the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Eto­bi­coke. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the fam­ily with funeral ex­penses.

Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, left, was found with gun­shot wounds in­side a car, and Zakariye Ali, 16, was shot in the park­ing lot of Kingsview Vil­lage School.

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